It started with cult artists and celebrities, then spread to tech moguls like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Tesla’s Elon Musk. And now, in a bizarre turn of events, the New York Stock Exchange and Sotheby’s are suddenly in the game of NFTs.
On Monday, the NYSE announced that it would issue a set of “First Trade” non-fungible tokens for sale as digital memorabilia of the historic moments of some companies’ debuts on the public markets. The first NFTs include six stocks: Spotify, which executed the first ever direct listing on the stock exchange in 2018, Snowflake, the largest software IPO in the U.S. history, Unity, DoorDash, Roblox and Coupang, the largest U.S. IPO in 2021 so far.
NYSE is the world’s largest stock exchange by trading volume. On its busiest days, the exchange processes over 350 billion order, quote and trade messages, NYSE president Stacey Cunningham explained in a LinkedIn post. Each message is recorded on the exchange’s digital ledger, and only one of them marks the first trade: the exact moment a company became public.”
NYSE doesn’t plan to sell these NFTs directly, though, according to Market Insider. They have been gifted to their respective companies and are stored on crypto.com, a new NFT marketplace.
In art, where NFTs first gained traction, Christie’s blockbuster $69 million sale of a digital work by Beeple has inspired a wave of followers, including traditional auction houses like Sotheby’s and Phillips.
From Monday to Wednesday, Sotheby’s held a three-day sale of NFT works by the digital artist Pak. Collectors are able to purchase “cubes” for $500 each, which can then be redeemed for NFTs. In just 15 minutes on the first day, Sotheby’s sold nearly $10 million of these “cubes” via the Nifty Gateway platform, which facilitated the auction.
Sotheby’s three-sale saw more than 3,000 participants. And like most hyped auctions, there were “a couple determined bidders who are trying to win,” Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart said in an interview with CNN Business Thursday.
“We moved into it because we believe that there are long-term implications and opportunity,” Stewart said. “And one of the most exciting things is that we are accessing an entirely new audience and group of artists as well.”
Phillips, the world’s third-largest auction house after Christie’s and Sotheby’s, launched a sale of a work by Canadian artist Mad Dog Jones on Monday. The auction will remain open until April 23. The artwork, called “Replicator,” has a unique design. When sold, it will generate a set of new artworks that come with a limited number of NFTs.
NFTs are a new class of blockchain-based tokens that represent ownership to physical or digital assets. Because of its non-fungible nature, an NFT cannot be freely exchanged with another asset. NFTs have been around since the early days of cryptocurrencies but didn’t really go mainstream until recently. The boom was largely fueled by the surging dollar value of cryptocurrencies, which are used in NFT transactions, and blockbuster deals such as Beeple’s art sale at Christie’s and Jack Dorsey’s $2.9 million sale of the first tweet ever last month.
Overall NFT sales volume and price have cooled down in recent weeks from its March high. But NYSE’s entry signals renewed interest in the asset. Dollar prices of Bitcoin and Ether are up more than 10 percent in the past week. The average price of an NFT sold on Thursday was $2,234, up from $1,195 a week ago, according to NonFungible.com, a crypto market research site.